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Culture, Libraries and Museums

Tasmanian Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, Powerhouse Museum, Immigration Museum, Art Gallery of South Australia

The development of library services after World War II was facilitated by state subsidies to local authorities. The establishment of library schools by the National Library of Australia, the Library of New South Wales, and the State Library of Victoria has raised the level of professional training of librarians. The Library Association of Australia conducts a comprehensive examination and certification system for professional librarians.

The National Library of Australia (1960), in Canberra, serves as the library of the nation, the library of the federal parliament, and the national copyright-depository library. In the early 1990s its holdings exceeded 4.7 million volumes. It has extensive collections of both Australiana and general research materials, and provides bibliographical and reference services to the federal government departments. The State Library of New South Wales (1826) is the oldest and largest of the state public libraries and contains a noted collection of Australiana. The State Library of Victoria (1854) includes collections on painting, music, and the performing arts.

All states maintain public libraries that are, in effect, state reference libraries. Rural areas are well served, except for the most remote locations. However, recent economic conditions have caused cutbacks in spending that have reduced many rural services. Each state parliament is served by a library, and important research collections are maintained at the various university libraries. The major scientific libraries are those of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Central Library of which is in Melbourne. Important special libraries are maintained by industrial concerns and by national and state government departments.

Australia has a variety of museums. The Australian Museum (1827) in Sydney features notable collections on natural history and anthropology; the National Maritime Museum (1991) is also in Sydney. The National Gallery of Victoria (1859) in Melbourne houses excellent exhibits of European and Australian paintings, as do the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1874) in Sydney; the Queensland Art Gallery (1895) in Brisbane; the Art Gallery of South Australia (1881) in Adelaide; and the Art Gallery of Western Australia (1895) in Perth. Also of note are the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (1880) of the Powerhouse Museum and the Nicholson Museum of Antiquities (1860) in Sydney; the Queensland Herbarium (1874); and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (1852) in Hobart.

Museum Victoria (formerly the Museum of Victoria), a complex of museums in Melbourne, incorporates the collections of the former National Museum of Victoria (1854) and Science Museum of Victoria (1870). The Museum Victoria complex includes the Melbourne Museum, a cultural and natural history museum; Scienceworks, a science and technology museum; and the Immigration Museum and Hellenic Antiquities Museum. Melbourne’s renowned Royal Botanic Gardens houses the National Herbarium, a research center with specimens and original documents dating back to the mid-19th century. The National Gallery of Australia (1982), in Canberra, displays works by Australian and other artists; the National Museum of Australia (2001), also in the federal capital, features collections relating to Australia’s land, people, and history.

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